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Discussion of gay issues to take place at national hockey coaches convention

More great news out of college hockey. GForce is again teaming up with Patrick Burke to present a conversation, this time at the American Hockey Coaches Convention, April 28-May 1 in Naples, Fla. The panel discussion features Burke, out former Oneonta State lacrosse captain Andrew McIntosh, and out former Univ. of Pennsylvania hockey captain Dave Farber.

It's another great example of the power of not just preaching to the choir. GForce and the entire Burke family are again demonstrating their commitment to speaking to people who can affect true change. I only wish the event was open to the public, because I'd love to be there.

Here's the complete information on the event:

Denver – A discussion of homophobia in sports, increasing team support and other issues facing gay athletes has been added to the agenda of next week’s American Hockey Coaches Association convention.

Denver-based GForce Sports, a non-profit gay sports club and advocacy group, will once again team up with Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke for a panel discussion focused on gay athletes and their acceptance by teams. Burke will moderate the discussion featuring GForce members David Farber,the former captain of the University of Pennsylvania’s hockey team, and Andrew McIntosh, a former SUNY-Oneonta lacrosse team captain.

The AHCA panel is part of GForce’s continuing outreach to both gay athletes and straight allies in the sports world and panel organizers hope the event will mark a turning point in achieving opportunities for openly gay athletes. “We’re promoting gay and lesbian athletes in any sport as every bit as talented, athletic, competitive and compassionate as straight athletes,” said GForce president Glenn Witman. “Teams miss out on great players and competitors by shunning gay athletes and we’re helping coaches, teammates and families of these athletes to push for equality when they play.”

"I am excited and honored to work with G-Force again. I am extremely grateful to the AHCA for allowing us to put on what will be another informative and interesting panel,” said Burke. “Coaches are the ones who set the identity of their program, both on and off the ice. I hope that by exposing them to the stories of Andrew McIntosh, David Farber, and my brother, Brendan Burke, the coaches will be better prepared to guide their teams.” Brendan Burke set a standard for college athletes by coming out to his Miami University teammates in 2009, shortly before a fatal car accident. Patrick and his father, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, have become outspoken proponents of equality for gays, particularly in athletics.

Brendan Burke’s Miami University coach, Rico Blasi, also has championed the cause and will participate in the forum. "Our team's experience with a gay teammate undeniably made us better as people and as a program. I think that this panel will provide other coaches with a blueprint to ensure thattheir locker rooms can be places where all of their players can be comfortable being who they are. It will be a great benefit to the coaches in attendance and ultimately to the players and programs as a whole.”

University of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky has joined Blasi in supporting discussion and acceptance. “Our coaching staff and team attended the GForce presentation at the University of Denver in January,” Gwozdecky said. “We found the discussion to be very enlightening and educational.I appreciate the hard work that many of these former student athletes are devoting to this cause.”

The ACHA conference will reach coaches at all levels of hockey, from youth to professional, and Witman hopes the open discussion will prepare coaches for the possibility of gay or lesbianteam members. With opinion surveys showing widespread support for gays and lesbians in youngerdemographics, Witman believes college sports are a reasonable place to make inroads in equality for gay athletes. “When peers are open with each other, they break down stereotypes,” Witman said. “Our speakers are role models and our programs have far-reaching potential. Through sports, Brendan Burke, Dave Farber, Andrew McIntosh and others overcame their fears and the prejudices of others to become better people and athletes.”

Paul Kelly, former National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) president and current executive director of College Hockey, Inc., agrees, saying, “We are proud that college hockey is a positive, welcoming place for young players to play, and we expect that the G-Force Sports presentation will help reinforce that. G-Force is doing terrific work and their message is one I know our coaches will embrace.”

The AHCA convention will be held April 28-May 1 in Naples, FL.

GForce Sports is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality in sports regardless of sexual orientation. In addition to friendly competition between gay and straight teams, GForce provides speakers from a number of sports through its “Invisible Athlete” forums and one-on-one mentoring of athletes working through issues of sexuality with its Athlete Buddy System. For more information, visit www.GForceSports.org.